12 Female Actors Who Got Paid Less Than Their Male Co-Stars

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

The end of this month brings us the 2016 Academy Awards – a night that is sure to be full of glitz and glamor as the stars come out for the biggest award ceremony of them all. However, it won’t be without controversy – this year, there has been furor around the lack of minority nominations, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending, and many black stars boycotting the event.

Last year was also not without controversy – when Patrica Arquette accepted her award for Boyhood, she eschewed the traditional speech in favor of one that drew attention to the wage gap in Hollywood. A year on, more and more female actors are speaking out about being paid less than their male counterparts – and while some of them arguably had lesser roles, others are completely inexcusable. Many, many actresses have lent their support to Arquette and to other actresses who have publicly spoken out about the wage gap, including these twelve, many of whom have provided specific examples of how difficult it has been for them to get equal pay.

That's why we're taking a look at 12 Female Actors Who Got Paid Less Than Their Male Co-Stars.

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Bette Davis
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12 Bette Davis

Bette Davis

Probably the first woman to openly (and very publicly) attempt to remedy the wage gap in Hollywood was Bette Davis – darling of the Golden Age of pictures. In the early 1930s, she was contracted to Warner Bros studio, but kept being given mediocre and lesser roles.

Despite receiving critical acclaim, and winning an Oscar for the 1936 film Dangerous, Warner Bros. refused to up her pay, change her contract, or consider her for meatier roles. When she was offered a better role in a British film, she took it, and ended up embroiled in a court case with Warner Bros for breach of contract. While her legal battles were for control and recognition as much as for salary, they represent the first time that an actress tried to fight for equal treatment and for her career.

11 Rooney Mara

Rooney Mara Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best known for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Oscar nominee Rooney Mara declined to give specific examples of projects where she has been paid less than her male co-stars, but has said that it happens all the time.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said that there were times that she was paid half of what her male co-star was paid. She expressed her frustration with the situation, but said that “it’s just a reality of the time that we live in” and that she was grateful to be getting paid to do what she loves at all.

10 Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman

When Charlize Theron found out that she was being offered significantly less than her co-star Chris Hemsworth for Snow White and The Huntsman sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War, she didn’t take it lying down. Knowing that the producers wanted her back (she stars as the Evil Queen), she held out until they offered her $10 million – exactly the same as Hemsworth (the Huntsman).

What makes this more frustrating is that presumably it means that she was paid less than him for the original, despite having just as prominent a role. Theron did say in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that she does see this as progress, and that she didn’t have to fight the studio once she had initially asked – which is a good sign for equality in future.

9 Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 3

The twelfth highest paid actress in the world in 2015, making a cool $9 million (according to Forbes), you would assume that Gwyneth Paltrow would command a salary on a par with male co-stars. However, she famously called the wage gap in Hollywood “sh**ty” in an interview with Variety last year. Currently starring alongside the world’s highest paid actor, Robert Downey Jr, in the Iron Man franchise, she did recognize in the interview that “no one is worth the money that [he] is worth,” but called the gap between their salaries for the franchise a surprising disparity.

Despite the fact that she is nowhere near as big a part of the films as RDJ is (he is, after all, Iron Man, while Paltrow plays love interest Pepper Potts), surely the gap shouldn’t be so large as to be that surprising?

8 Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin in Suddenly Susan

Award-winning comedian Kathy Griffin may be a well-known face on television, but she was quick to point out that the wage gap in Hollywood is still very much an issue when speaking to Variety last year. She spoke about how difficult she has found it to get a raise for her work – even when she brought in her Emmys to do it.

Griffin has said that she was the second-lowest paid actor on Suddenly Susan, and has no backend deal on My Life On The D-List. In her interview with Variety, she said that “I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t in a situation where my male counterparts didn’t make more money than I did.”

7 Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson in Hannibal Season 3 Episode 10

The X-Files returned to our screens this year, along with the stars from the first run, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. However, despite being arguably of equal importance to the show (as the star team), Anderson was offered significantly less than Duchovny to return.

After it took her three seasons to get an equal salary during the initial show run in the ‘90s, when the show was being revived by Fox, she told The Hollywood Reporter that she was offered “half” of what he was to return. After the work she did to close the pay gap on the original series, she obviously turned down the initial offer, and is now being paid the same as Duchovny on the reboot, but Anderson remains unimpressed that she had to fight for it a second time.

6 Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain in The Martian

When Chastain added her voice to the conversation about the Hollywood wage gap, she brought something up that many others didn’t – inaccurate reporting. Speaking to The Huffington Post, Chastain said that her reported salary for sci-fi film The Martian was false, and that she actually made less than a quarter of what some sites say she had.

With a little digging and some math, The Playlist figured out that she actually made around $1.75 million for the film in 2015 (salary) – an impressive number, until you consider the fact that her co-star Matt Damon made a reported $15-25 million for the film. Chastain’s role was admittedly smaller than Damon’s, but her reported salary of $7 million would have been much more appropriate for the difference in role, rather than the amount she actually received.

5 Amy Adams

Amy Adams in Man of Steel

Amy Adams was the second female lead in ensemble mafia flick American Hustle, alongside Jennifer Lawrence. Despite being a well-respected actress, known for roles in Enchanted, Julie & Julia, The Office, and blockbuster superhero movie Man of Steel, Amy Adams was paid two percent less than her male co-stars on back-end profits.

Before American Hustle, she had already been nominated for four Oscars, more than some of her co-stars who were being paid more, and was a well-recognized actress. With as significant a role in the film as the other headliners (if not a larger one than some), her smaller cut was essentially a slap in the face.

4  4. Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried in 'Ted 2'

Amanda Seyfried is best known for romantic dramas and rom-coms, meaning that she is usually on equal footing with her male co-star in terms of screen time. (Often, she has a larger role.) However, it seems that this doesn’t mean that she gets equal pay. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Seyfried revealed that on a recent big-budget film, she was paid only ten percent of what her male co-star was paid.

Although she didn’t reveal which film it was, this wasn’t one of her first films, but one that she was starring in as a well-established actress. Seyfried even said that she had been “even in status” with the co-star when she was getting only a fraction of what he did.

3 Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep was cheering when Patricia Arquette made her Oscars speech last year, and has been very vocal about sexism in Hollywood. The actress holds the record for most Academy Award nominations in history (and has won three), but she has stated unequivocally that she gets paid less than her male co-stars.

When promoting her film Suffragette in 2015, she spoke in many interviews about sexism in the film industry, and although she did not name specific films where she was paid less, she made it very clear that she felt that it is still difficult to be a woman in Hollywood, especially when it comes to pay.

2 Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give

There is no doubt about it, Diane Keaton is a phenomenal actress, and a household name. However, in the 2003 rom com Something’s Gotta Give, she didn’t receive back-end pay for her starring role. Her co-star, Jack Nicholson, did. (Back end pay refers to money earned after filming – usually a percentage of the profits from the film.)

Despite being an Oscar-winning actress, her deal got her significantly less than the man who shared the posters with her. However, she revealed in her memoirs that Jack Nicholson stepped up and sent her a check “with a lot of zeros” two years after the film was released – it was part of his own percentage.

1 Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell's Joy

When Sony pictures was hacked, one of the many disturbing revelations was that Jennifer Lawrence was paid two percent less on the back-end deal than her male co-stars for American Hustle. Even more frustratingly, she was originally only going to get 5% to the male actors 9% - nearly half of what they would be earning.

These numbers may seem small, but they refer to the percent of the profits that the actors would be receiving – on a film that grossed over $150 million. The film was also released in 2013 – after she had shot to fame for huge roles in the X-Men and Hunger Games franchises.


Any other fantastic female actors you know of who should be getting better pay? Let us know in the comments!

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